Why #TeamADL

By Anita Devi

December 2018:  It’s 3 months since we publicly launched #TeamADL and today we have announced our final team member for 2018-19.  I wanted to take some time to share with you the vision and aspiration behind #TeamADL

I’ve been involved in education for a long time.  I’ve worked in England and overseas in several continents.  I’ve also held a variety of roles and leadership positions over the years and I’ve been involved in several change projects (locally, regionally, nationally & even international).  So, it would be fair to say, I’ve seen quite a bit in education of what works and what needs changing.  For more than fifteen years, I have also been involved in discussions (internationally and at home) on integrating provision between education, health and social care.

Within the realm of special educational needs and disability (SEND), there were three things I wanted to change; access to multi-agency expertise, cost-effective commissioning and developing long-term provision to support life-long independence & fulfilment.  A central thread running through all of these is leadership and I will discuss this in detail further on in the blog.  For now, let me dive deeper into these three core pillars for change:

Access to multi-agency expertise

Multi-agency approach to supporting children, young people and their families is not a new concept.  However, one of the biggest challenges over the years has been timely intervention and cross service referrals without long waiting lists.  I believe wholeheartedly in localism, but I also recognise that local areas no longer have the capacity to meet needs.  This was confirmed by the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists Report in 2017.

In effect, just over 9 months ago, I started thinking about what an effective multi-agency team would look like.  How could services be time responsive? How could we utilise complimentary skills and knowledge to best support children and young people?  I decided to build a team of twelve professionals.  Why twelve?  Margret Mead, says it best,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I chose professionals, who were like minded and had complimentary skills sets.  These were individuals, who had a deep understanding of our mission and values.

TeamADL Values 2018 v2.png

The specialisms of #TeamADL are too long to list here.  However, you can read about what each team member can offer here. In summary though, #TeamADL includes specialists in Autism (Language & Psychology), Behaviour, Assistive Technology, Occupational Therapy, Mental Health, Social Work, Curriculum, Assessment, Work Placements, IAG, Transport Training, Leadership, Strategy, SENCO Development & Wellbeing, Change Management and SEND, to name a few.  An amazing team and such a privilege to be part of their journey. We also have a HR specialist, whom we can tap into to support young people into work. We operate a flat leadership culture and regularly liaise with young people, parents and carers.

Having established the team … and some team members I had to wait for, until their life circumstances gave them space to come on board, my next task was to consider how to improve access.  For this I decided to use an online app, that would book the team member’s time straight into their diary.  No going back and forward to agree dates.  As people book, they choose a date and time that mutually suits them and the specialist they are booking.  So #TeamADL members all update their ‘Availability’ diaries regularly.  Schools and leaders, who have already used this approach, love it!  It saves so much time and is responsive.  I had a school that needed leadership input the next day.  At 2pm they booked an hour of my time. The very next day, before lunch time, we had had a one-hour coaching session.  An international school is looking to book an hour each month, with a different member of #TeamADL to support her team’s CPD.  This whole year’s input costs far less than attending a whole day’s conference and is specifically geared to that school’s needs.

Cost-effective commissioning

More than a decade ago, I was privileged to work with The Audit Commission on the AEN/SEN VfM Toolkit.  Embracing ‘value for money’ and ‘Social Value’ of services has been an area I have written and spoken about extensively.  During the SEND Reforms, I also submitted papers around Outcomes-Based Accountability and how this approach could enable us to plan for increasing need in a time of shrinking budgets.  Working with local authorities, I’ve advocated the use of Porter’s 5 Forces to evaluate provision of non-maintained independent special schools, to ensure children’s needs are met. Working with schools, I looked at effective use of funding and finance.  Every way I looked at it, with a variety of others … the issue came down to one thing – better commissioning at all levels.  So, I needed to design a better commissioning model.

Time and time again, over the years I have been involved in consultancy, I would be contacted by a head teacher, SENCO or local authority asking me if I could support them with x or Child S.  The more we talked, prior to me going in, they realised they needed something quite different instead.  In some cases, they didn’t need me at all.  Thus, saving them money.  The initial approach I had to ‘being commissioned’ needed to be formalised.  In #TeamADL, we call this ‘Digital First Consultancy Call’ (DFCC).  Our commissioning strategy is a three-step process, so anyone commissioning #TeamADL for extended work is clear on agreed outcomes and quality assurance procedures.   Three fundamental principles underpin our commissioning cycle:


Each specialist member of #TeamADL offers three main packages plus a few tailored / unique services, that ensure value for money approach and ‘redundancy’ support model.  If we are good at what we do, you shouldn’t need to commission us again for the same service … why?  We will have capacity built along the way.  That’s our mission: to develop people, grow organisations and strengthen localities.

Long-term Provision

What happens to young people with a special educational needs and disability after formal education years?  How can we ensure these young people have access and support into vocations and living independently?   Whilst Cole & I are spearheading this project, the whole team (as a multi-agency team) are on board and will be involved in enabling appropriate provision in and into the workplace.  Our launch event was in 2019:

Save the date 9th March 2019

You can also read about our #SENDcareers vision and other recent #TeamADL blogs here.


I shared earlier leadership is a central theme.  In 2017, I was awarded (by Jury decision) The Influential Educational Leaders Award in Cambridge.  This international award was in recognition of my commitment to the #SEND Leadership Pipeline.

Pipeline small

The graphic below highlights some of the many projects we (as a team) are involved in.  This does not include the work we undertake directly with children, young people and their families or local authorities.

TeamADL 2

Two of our team members, with headship experience in special and mainstream also work with:

TeamADL 1

We have great plans for #TeamADL Three months in, I am so proud of what we have achieved and what we will go onto achieve.  Don’t just take my word for it … this is what some of the team have to say:


“I am excited about being part of #TeamADL as a Speech and Language Therapist. who specialises in Autism. I believe in multidisciplinary working and am interested in advancing the career opportunities for young people and adults with Autism.”



“As a clinical Psychologist with a special interest in mental health and autism, I joined #TeamADL because of the opportunities to work as a team of professionals to support individuals in expanding their options and improving their wellbeing.”



“I feel honoured and excited to be part of #TeamADL of professionals with the wide range of skills and experiences. I would have dreamed of accessing when I was a Head teacher.  My personal vision is to help people overcome their barriers to success; helping my ‘neighbour’ journey on in life.  For me, this must include supporting them in experiencing meaningful access to the community (education and wider).  Inclusion for me is about helping the person themselves ‘feel that they belong’ and this is what this team can foresee.”


“#TeamADL is a diverse and talented group of individuals.  I know I have their full support in order to provide a quality package of support.  I focus on SENCO development and wellbeing; ensuring they have the information they need to do their job effectively.”


“Bringing our award-winning preventative mental training to schools is incredibly exciting for us, it is going to go a long way towards supporting our Mental Health Referral Programme for children alongside our social enterprise partnership with the Sheeran Family. It is an honour to be a part of #TeamADL to begin directly and positively supporting teachers and student’s mental health and wellbeing.”


“Supporting parents & educators in promoting positive behaviour is my specialism. My focus is working with children/young people to enable them to re-engage with education, to transform their behaviour & to reach their full potential, whatever that means for them. Using this approach allows me to offer guidance to parents on how to overcome challenging times with their child’s behaviour at home and school. Being part of #TeamADL enables me to reach more children, families and schools in need of support – which is one of our key aims. Over the years, I have met parents who have also needed other services to support their child’s needs. This can now happen through #TeamADL, as we provide an extensive range of services within the team.”